Where Robot Cars Are Driving Us: Interview with Brad Templeton

During the recent Web Summit held in Dublin, Ireland, we were honored to speak with Internet pioneer Brad Templeton on topics like robot cars (self-driving cars), Internet of Things and on-line surveillance.

Canadian-born software architect Brad Templeton is active in the network community since late 70’s. He is considered to have been the first to suggest that Internet addresses should be in the form site “dot” top-level-domain. He also founded the first-ever dot-company back in 1989.

Currently, living in San Francisco, Templeton is a noted advocate of robot cars, having even advised Google on its driverless car project. This multifaceted entrepreneur is also a Board Member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a well-known non-profit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world, Director for the Singularity University, and Board Member of the nanotechnology think tank Foresight Institute.

He made two appearances at the Web Summit, the first one on Day 1 to talk to a crowded audience on the Machine Stage, and the second one on Day 2 in a round-table format meeting. After that we met for this interview.

Brad Templeton at Dublin Web Summit 2014
Brad Templeton at Dublin Web Summit 2014

P.N. Robocars are one of the most expected technologies nowadays. Can they, in its current state of development, provide solutions for the car industry of today ?

B.T. I don’t want to say that the cars are good today as something you can sell to people. Although, there are some people building products, what you call advanced cruise control, but you still have to pay attention, you can take your hands off the steering wheel but still you have to be watching, so that is just a way of relaxing. Some of these technologies sprung out of researches on this, or some of the robocars researches sprung out of researches on building a system called ADAS. The interesting thing happening is a push for cheaper sensor technology, lighter technology, radar technology. All these technologies are getting more people interested in working on manufacturing high-end cars cheaper, which gonna help every kind of car.

P.N. How come you got involved with robocars ?

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Dublin Web Summit 2014 Day 3: Centre Stage

In the third and last day of Web Summit, the enormous tech conference celebrated recently in Dublin, Ireland, we headed to the Centre Stage to attend the talks of some noted speakers arousing our interest. Here, our highlights.

A view from the audience at the Web Summmit Centre stage
A view from the audience at the Web Summmit Centre Stage

An hour of code

Hadi Partovi, co-founder of education non-profit Code.org, introduced us to the worldwide campaign “Hour of Code”, an initiative aimed to demystify computer science and inspire millions of school students to learn to code. The campaign, born in the U.S. in 2013, is backed by technology leaders like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and many others.

The Iran-born entrepreneur said that even if computers are everywhere, increasingly impacting every field of human activity, computer science is just on the recovery from a 10-year decline. In the U.S., there are fewer computer science students than 10 years ago, meanwhile in Europe only 11 countries have science/coding in the schools’ curriculum, at the same time as “every single industry is desperately trying to hire programmers”.

Initiatives like this Hour of Code try to address the matter. Even if anyone (teachers, parents, etc.) can host an hour of code anytime, the next milestone will be happening during the week of Dec. 8th – Dec. 14th, when they plan to achieve the goal of tens of millions of students around the world trying an hour of code.

Hadi Partovi introducing the "Hour of Code" initiative
Hadi Partovi presenting the “Hour of Code” initiative

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Dublin Web Summit 2014 Day 1: Machine stage

Technology conference Web Summit was held in Dublin from 4th to 6th November, an impressively huge and very well organized tech event, where around 20,000 attendees from more than 100 countries met. During three intense days, we found gathered a great amount of insightful speakers sharing their ideas, enthusiastic startups willing to met investors, as well as countless workshops, roundtables, network sessions, presentation pitches, demos, stands, and also night parties.

Actually, the event featured several summits happening at the same time: Builders, Enterprise, Food, Machine, Marketing, Music, Sport, amongst others. The first day, we mainly attended the Machine Summit, where a line-up of noted speakers discussed about topics like the Internet of Things, smart cities, wearables, robotics, 3D printing and human-machine interaction.

Web Summit
The Web Summit beehive

From Hollywood to the real world

In the morning, one of the first speakers that impressed us was the interface designer John Underkoffler, pretty widely known for his work as science advisor on SF films like “Iron Man” and “Minority Report”. This MIT Media Lab alumni gave us a visionary glimpse of where human-machine interaction is heading. It looks like definitely you can forget your mouse, keyboard and other devices as 3D space UI is becoming the emerging trendOblong Industries, the company where Underkoffler serves as a CEO, has been working since more than a decade to make real the cool gesture-based data interface technology featured in the film “Minority Report”, and they are almost there with G-Speak, an spacial operating environment, whose first commercial application is the conference room solution Mezzanine.

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RE.WORK Berlin 2014 – Day One

RE.WORK is a far-reaching proposal for all those who are interested in how new technologies will affect our lives and business. It is organized in diverse cities during the year, bringing some of the most promising professionals and researchers on diverse high-tech areas. Last week we joyfully attended RE.WORK Technology Summit in Berlin: the easy-going nature of the city fitted so well with the relaxed, comfortable atmosphere of the gathering. It was the evidence that breakthrough ideas can be spread cleverly as well as peacefully.

First exciting proposal of the day came with Jamie Paik, contributor on École Polytechnique Fédérale de Laussanne and Harvard Microbotics Laboratory, who introduced us into the polymorphic universe of soft robotics. Robots’ softness can be extrinsic (by the way it is designed) or intrinsic (by the material chosen): they are conceived to act there where people or hard robots can’t reach, with a high level of accuracy. This research area is demonstrating itself highly useful in many different applications, as the soft robots are more adaptive, multi-tasked and re-purposed than the “harder” versions. They are ready to revolutionize many professional fields: from comfortable exoskeletons to exploratory robots, soft-robots can be an essential tool in the future. For a more graphic explanation, this video from Harvard University is really eyeopening:

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